Boris Johnson Dragged Into Firing Line Over Tory Donor's Controversial £1bn Housing Deal

Graeme Demianyk
Boris Johnson speaking during prime minister's questions in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson is facing questions over what he knew about a Tory donor’s controversial £1bn east London development that his housing secretary “unlawfully” signed off – after it emerged the PM waved through a version of the same scheme four years ago when he was mayor of London.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has received fierce criticism after approving the 1,500-home development at the former Westferry Printworks site on London’s Isle of Dogs in January, despite the scheme being rejected by the local council and then the independent Planning Inspectorate.

The secretary of state’s intervention came just a day before Tower Hamlets Council approved a new rate for its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a move that would have increased the property owner’s financial liability to the authority by between £30m and £50m.

The building used to be the Daily Express printworks on the Millwall waterfront and sits on land owned by Northern & Shell, a company in turn owned by media mogul Richard Desmond, a former Tory party donor.

HuffPost UK reported this week that police are “assessing” an allegation about Jenrick’s decision.

Last month, Jenrick conceded his decision was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias” and confirmed his approval was deliberately issued before the new CIL policy could be adopted. The move meant Jenrick was able to avoid publishing correspondence relating to the application in open court as part of a judicial review of his decision triggered by Tower Hamlets Council. His planning permission has been quashed and is to be decided by a different minister.

But now the Labour Party has raised questions over how much the prime minister knew about Jenrick’s decision – and highlighted how Johnson approved a smaller, subsequently withdrawn version of the same scheme in 2016 when he was mayor of London.

The party has tabled a series of written parliamentary questions on whether meetings were held between the PM and his advisers...

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